Colleagues, employees and friends of Scott County Sheriff Mike Cross remember him as a strong leader, supporter and faithful man.
Cross, who died Sunday at the age of 56, served three years as Scott County’s sheriff and another 15 years before that as chief of police in Oneida. He was prepared to seek re-election to another four-year term next year.
On Monday, Darryl Laxton, who succeeded Cross as chief of police in Oneida and began his career with him as a Sheriff’s Department deputy in the late 1980s, said Cross will be missed.
“He will definitely be dearly missed, not only as a brother in law enforcement but also as a cousin and childhood friend,” Laxton said. “We began our law enforcement careers close to the same time. We started off in all of this together at the same time. He was more like family than anything else.”
Gerry Garrett, who worked for Cross most of Cross’s tenure as chief of police in Oneida, said it was an honor to work for him and to call him a friend.
“My career in law enforcement started with him one night when he walked into the pool room on Main Street while he was working,” Garrett said.
“He saw me and asked me if I wanted to go do a ride-along with him. It took off from there.
“There is so much that I learned from the man that has enabled me to continue my career at a much larger department here at Kissimmee (Fla.) Police Department,” Garrett added. “It’s been an honor to work for him all of those years but even more special to be able to call him a friend. My life changed because of him.”
Garrett said one of his last conversations with Cross was about the upcoming election, which is scheduled for August 2014 with qualifying to begin in January.
“He was excited about it and was looking forward to launching his campaign,” Garrett said.
Sheriff’s Department drug agent Kris Lewallen, who has worked within the last three administrations at the department, said that Cross led from the front and not from the back.
“He showed us what to do and taught us how to do it with honor and integrity,” Lewallen said. “He taught us what the public expected from us. He was a man of honor and justice and a man of God. I don’t remember a time that he wasn’t out there with us side-by-side working during drug raids, inclement weather or any dangerous calls we had to go on.
“Mike Cross was the sheriff this county needed,” Lewallen added.
Sunday afternoon, Campbell County Sheriff Robbie Goins remembered Cross as a dedicated public servant.
“Sheriff Cross leaves behind a legacy of love and service to his family, employees and the citizens of Scott County,” Goins said.
Scott County citizens were also sounding off on the Independent Herald’s Facebook page. Following is a sampling:
■ Jerica Phillips: “Heroes are those who risk their lives every day to protect our county and make it a better place and that’s what our sheriff did his best at. He will be dearly missed.”
■ Ashley Gagne: “He used prayer to bring our county together and help clean up the drugs. His passion for the people and the families showed.”
■ Dorothy Shoemaker: “I liked the fact that Sheriff Cross knew the drug problem in Scott County was too big for him and his men to fix. He knew it would take the Lord Jesus to intervene and he called on Scott County to pray.”
■ Norina Litton: “Mike was always willing to help us with our safety programs and report at the Tennessee Technology College. He was very community-focused and will be missed very much.”
■ Brad Phillips: “It is a sad thing that he had to go like this. He was doing a great job in his duty as Sheriff of Scott County.”
■ Peg Willis: “He was truly a great person who served our county for years. He will be missed by us all.”
■ Michelle Coffey: “I think he was the best sheriff we ever had and here’s why: He cared so much about our county that he instituted monthly prayers to help curb the drug problem among other things that were going on in our county. He truly cared. Our loss, which is a great one, is heaven’s gain.”
■ Donna Crabtree: “I knew Mike when he was chief of police in Oneida. He was a fair man and he loved his children a lot. I salute you Mike Cross for all you have done.”
■ Durenda Hutson: “He was the best sheriff Scott County has ever had and will have. Such a special person.”
■ Cynthia Adkins: “Mike Cross spent most of his life serving the public and answering calls. Today he answered his last call. This call welcomed him home, to toal peace and love for all eternity. We love, respect and honor this Godly man.”
■ Shelia Blakley: “Mike was a Godly man who wanted the best for his family, friends and community.”
■ Felicia Spoljoric: I have known Mike for many years. He was a good man.”
■ Patricia Laxton: “He was a Christian sheriff. That’s what Scott County needed.”
■ Angela Duncan: “I loved Mike and his family. He has been the best role model for all of us.”
■ Daphne Estes: “Mike was a true blessing for a lot of children. His giving and heart were bigger than any amount of words could express. He helped me and my children and made them smile.”
■ Jann Lewis: “Mike Cross was a man who people admired and who did his job. Yes, some people didn’t like it, but he did his job. He was a Christian and a family man. We lost a great servant to our county.”
■ Reva Jo Silence: “Mike Cross was with Oneida Police Department when he presented my son with a bicycle and certificate of bravery back in 2008 after Justin, at the age of five, acted quickly during a shooting while eating at a restaurant on our way to Texas to visit. Justin quickly hit the floor and shouted for everyone to get on the floor and kept saying, ‘They taught us this at school!’ After the ordeal was over I asked Justin how he knew what to do and he credited Mike Cross and Oneida PD for coming to their school and talking to the kids about what to do in such a situation. I put an article in the Scott County newspaper and thanked Oneida PD for this valuable lesson to the children. The next week I got a phone call from Mike Cross and he wanted to present Justin with an award for bravery. Unfortunately when we moved back to Texas Justin could not bring his bicycle but his award is still sitting in his room. I am thankful for people like this who come into and touch our lives.”